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Bishop Johnston on diocesan house culture, his retirement

Bishop Johnston on diocesan house culture, his retirement

This letter by Shannon Johnston, diocesan bishop, has been posted at the Diocese of Virginia website.

Bishop Shannon’s Update to the Diocesan Family

June 14, 2018

Dear Diocesan Family,

I am writing to you to follow up on the letter you received from me recently announcing the end of our search for a second bishop suffragan. Because of pressing circumstances that required immediate action for the sake of the candidates who were advancing in the process, coupled with the fact that some facts were not in place at the time, I was not in the position to offer much detail. Now that the Standing Committee has been briefed, and having a better take on our situation, I hope to provide some clarification since I am quite aware that there are many questions, not to mention much speculation and concern.

Please know that I, too, uphold transparency as a virtue. However, as every leader knows, there are times when full transparency is simply not feasible — and can also be irresponsible or even unkind. This is one of those times. I will not be able to answer every question, nor am I at liberty to do so. I know that this is frustrating, but here we are.

What I can say is this: We are NOT in the midst of any kind of impropriety or malfeasance, whether legal or moral. Moreover, our entire staff remains at work with dedication, purpose, and integrity, and remains fully committed, both personally and professionally. The ministries of the diocese are all right on target and still set a standard. I thank you for the many expressions of support and trust that we have received, and I am confident that we have the resources, the means, and the willingness to address the issues that have been raised.

Those issues are all about internal matters — administrative structure, workplace culture and relationships. Yes, the issues are serious, but we are not facing anything that can’t be made right again. As Bishop, I am utterly committed to that work.

Of course, the other matter I raised in my first letter is that for many months now I have been considering the options for my retirement. I can now tell you that for personal reasons I shall resign and retire earlier than I had planned (which is another reason not to elect a second suffragan at this time). I have not yet determined precisely when that will be, but I am looking toward the summer of next year, 2019. As there is much for Ellen and me to consider and learn about retiring, we are still in the stage of giving this a lot of thought, and I expect to be able to send you a fully detailed notice by the end of this month.

The bottom line is that our Diocese of Virginia remains a first-rate example of a fine Church in which to worship and serve. This is no less true now than it has ever been. We are the Body of Christ. Keep the faith!

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
XIII Bishop of Virginia

Bishop Johnston’s letter comes three weeks after his initial letter to the Diocese of Virginia announced the end of a search for a second bishop suffragan.  At the time, Johnston alluded to the fact that he was considering retiring earlier than originally planned but gave no specific timeline.  The initial letter also come only a month after Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Canon Pat Wingo accepted a call to be Interim Rector of the Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, TN and the Rt. Rev. Ted Gulick, former Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Virginia, was hired as interim Canon to the Ordinary.


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James McCandliss

In the first letter the issues were “serious questions have been brought forward by members of the diocesan staff having to do with the leadership and the culture among diocesan staff.” Now it’s “internal matters — administrative structure, workplace culture and relationships.”

The concept that is now missing? Leadership.

Not the Virginia I thought I knew.

Eric Bonetti

Having left TEC and organized Christianity over issues within the diocese and its improper handling of non-sexual clergy misconduct, I should in fairness state that I am a far from disinterested party. That said, in situations such as this, truly troubled organizations often don’t recognize the depth or breadth of their challenges. In such cases, the outward manifestation typically is challenging interpersonal dynamics and a lack of individual accountability–situations that arise when people lose sight of the baptismal covenant. All of these are painfully evident within the diocesan structure; nor would I in any way describe the diocese as “right on target,” particularly in its relationship with individual parishes and clergy.

If +Shannon really wishes to solve problems, he needs to be open to all possibilities and feedback, versus papering over issues by saying how fine things are at the diocese. They are not, and this is not merely a situation involving internal dynamics.

Annie Milligan

The suffragan nominees must feel they’ve dodged a bullet. The language is opaque. The culture of any staff begins and ends with the person at the top. There is a nod towards responsibility but it looks like the staff is being blamed for something. Whatever is really going, doesn’t seem the truth will out.

Also, the bishop of Virginia is now a lame duck.

Prayers ascending for all to experience resolution and healing.

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